DT CEO Obermann to take over at cable company Ziggo

Deutsche Telekom (DT) CEO René Obermann shook the industry by announcing he will join Dutch cable operator Ziggo as its CEO starting next year.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann


Obermann, who announced his intention late last year to exit DT at the end of 2013, will become CEO of Ziggo starting in January 2014. Current Ziggo CEO Bernard Dijkhuizen plans to retire then. Ziggo employs around 3,000 staff to run a telephony, high-speed internet and digital TV service with 2.9 million customers. Ziggo had 2012 revenue of €1.5 billion, compared to the more than €58 billion generated by DT and its 230,000 workers.

"After 15 years with Deutsche Telekom, I am very happy to join Ziggo," Obermann said in a statement. "This opportunity fulfills my strong wish as an entrepreneur to move closer to operational activities and to be involved in a fast changing world of offering products and services in media and entertainment."

While Obermann said he wanted to move back to a more entrepreneurial role when he announced his resignation last December, his decision was also said to have been promoted by growing frustration with telecoms regulators and their failure to relax rules while demanding increased infrastructure investment, a person close to the matter at the time told Bloomberg.

However, Obermann's move to Ziggo is being welcomed by some industry observers.

 "It is good that Obermann has experience in fixed and mobile services as Ziggo intends to launch a mobile product, which could become one of its most important growth drivers," Emmanuel Carlier, a Brussels-based analyst at ING Group, told Bloomberg.

Ziggo, which failed to bid in last year's Dutch LTE spectrum auction, has said it plans to expand its mobile offering using some spectrum it acquired in 2010.

"We think the move is a good fit," said Ovum's Steven Hartley. "Obermann has expressed his interest in becoming more entrepreneurial and hands-on, so a fast growing cable operator in the fiercely competitive Dutch market certainly offers the opportunity for thrills. Moving from a telco to a cable company is hardly a quantum leap nowadays as each competes in the same space, albeit coming from historically different perspectives."

Of note, Obermann is said to have asked the German telecoms regulator to limit Germany's cable operators such as the giant Kabel Deutschland and their hold on local markets, while seeking alliances with fixed-line operators in Europe. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress trade show two weeks ago, DT's European head, Claudia Nemat, said that the Netherlands, where DT only offers mobile services, was a possible example where co-operation could be considered, according to Bloomberg.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Rhein-Zeitung article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Ovum statement

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